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Six Stories Book 1

Thomas Simmons

3. My Coy Walt, My Frigid Eyes Prank 2. Was It Worth It Homeless and the Man in the Monocle: A Children’s Story for Grown-Ups 1. Princess

3. We turned off the lights and told everyone to shut up after someone said they had seen some babies patrolling outside. Mike and I kept vigil by the window, waiting for the coast to clear. And I don’t know how we missed it, but there was a knock at the door, followed by really loud, body-consuming crying. “Shit, man,” Mike muttered, and he didn’t need to say a word to anyone -- the entire party escaped through the back door like air out of a popped balloon, but since it was me and Mike’s place, we decided to take the blame. It was too bad because we were celebrating Jeffrey’s birthday, it wasn’t even like it was just a random party. We had like three kegs, got Jeff a cake, sent out invites, the whole nine yards – so that when it did get busted it was even worse. Like it wouldn’t’ve been such a big deal if we were just drinking for no reason, you know? But I guess there’s not much you can do either way. We opened the door and there they were: three babies sitting on the front step, diapers-only, faces red, bawling as hard as they possibly could. We tried to apologize, tell them it wouldn’t happen again, but they kept crying with their tiny fists balled up in judicial rage. “We’re fucked,” Mike said under his breath. “Yeah,” I agreed. “We might as well just take our punishment. I bet they won’t be so hard on us if we cooperate.” So Mike picked up one baby, I grabbed the other two, and we spent the rest of the night cooing and burping them until they felt better, and crawled back outside, and went back to whatever they do during the day. There was no way either of us was going to get any sleep after that. “Well at least that’s over with now,” I said. “Yeah, man. Wanna just have a few more beers? I mean it’s almost morning anyway.” “Sure.” We drank until the sun came up and then started cleaning the place. I may not care for babies too much, but they really know how to teach a lesson.

My Coy Waltz, My Frigid Eyes I heard her socks on the hardwood floor while I read the comics. I always let her sleep in on the weekends. It gave me an hour or two to gather myself. I heard her come down the stairs, walk through the hallway, and timed it perfectly, my head lifted as soon as she entered. That morning she came into the kitchen real bubbly, a long white tee shirt with no pants or shoes. I folded the comics up and placed my mug on top of them. “Hey there.” She tousled her hair as she plodded in, lowered smile and eyes, her playful act, because I knew she had been up for sometime now, in our bed on her side, thinking about the day, about us, how to execute both in the most successful manner, the best and worst way to approach everything, and she dropped into the seat across from me at the kitchen table. “Good morning!” “A good night’s sleep?” She stretched up her arms over her head and stuck out her chest. “A great night’s sleep.” Then something in her snapped and her body contracted and she lifted her elbows onto the table and rested her head in between the heart-shaped crevasse made by two fists. “Because I didn’t just sleep well. I had a dream, too.” I crossed my arms. “A dream?” Her chin sucked in and then back out. “A good one?” “A great one.” “Oh.” “Maybe the best dream I’ve ever had.” I frowned. “Those are strong words.” Her arms fell back off the table. One reached over and sought out the other. “It was a pretty strong dream. Is there anymore coffee?” I said No. I only made one cup, I can make you one, and she frowned and said, why didn’t you make two? and I told her you never drink coffee in the morning, and she fake yawned, and said You should have known today would be different, should have known today would be special. I walked to the counter behind the table, took out the used filter, put in a new one, one, one and a half scoops, one cup of water, and pressed On. I stood there. “Hey,” she said. I turned around. “Are you gonna sit back down?” I looked back to the coffee. “I don’t know. It’s only one cup.” “Sit back down. I’ll get it when it’s ready.” I heard it percolate as I pulled out the chair and sat back down. She started eating some of my leftover toast while I had been up. “Are you hungry?” She studied the crust in her hand and shook her head. “Not really.” “Are you sure?”

She thought about it. “Yeah. I’m sure.” “Ok.” “So this dream.” “Maybe we should wait till the coffee’s ready before we start this.” “It’s fine. I’ll have it after. I don’t want to forget it.” I shrugged. “It’s your dream. Go ahead” “Well,” she began, “the first thing about the dream, which was weird, was that I was a man in it, some sort of wealthy business man, and that night I was going to a ball or something, so I had on this tuxedo and carried a cane with me. And wherever I went there was like this assistant kind of guy who kept asking me if everything was all right and if I needed anything. He was always sneaking up on me: like I’d turn over to look at something, and he’d jump up in front of whatever I wanted to see to make sure I was doing ok. He was like the worst part of the dream because he was really annoying. So fucking annoying. Like, just one of those people who’s obsessed with you. So I get to the ball, and it was like in one of those ballrooms you see in those Victorian age movies, where you can’t see the ceiling and the dance floor is huge, and there are hundreds of people in fine clothing dancing, chatting, and drinking champagne. This is great, you know how much I love that kind of stuff, but my assistant is still there with me! I wanted to punch him in the mouth. He just kept doting on me the whole time and pointing people out. No one seemed to think it was weird that he kept following me around, so I didn’t say anything, though. All the people there were dressed up, too, and they were really nice people, all people who I was really good friends with, so they all went up to me at once, and I had a sincere conversation with each of them, and each one felt special, like I was confiding in someone a piece of gossip I’d tell no one else. Then when I was finished talking to them I asked my assistant to get me something to drink while I found a place to sit down by the dance floor. That’s when I saw this gorgeous girl sitting by herself at a table. She was hands down the most attractive person in the room. And she was sitting there all alone, looking sort of sad and out of place, so I took a seat at her table. We hit it off like immediately: we started talking about all types of things (I don’t remember) and she kept smiling and leaning in close to me, and the whole time my assistant wasn’t there. Finally I asked her to dance, and when we got to the dance floor I saw my assistant standing beside me, maybe like five feet away, and he kept winking at me and saying things like ‘Good choice’ or ‘She likes you.’ And he managed to do it so she never heard any of what he said. When we danced, she stayed real close to me, and since she seemed so into me I stayed real close to her also. We danced like that the rest of the night, I guess, because the next thing I know my assistant was saying it was time to go. I looked at the girl and she said ‘Can I come with?’ and she said it in a way where like I knew exactly what she meant. We were making out the whole ride back and didn’t care whether or not the assistant saw, and then when we got back we had sex.” “Do you even know how sex from a man’s perspective feels?” “Probably not. I can’t describe how it felt, but she was talkative the whole time, telling me it felt good and that she wanted me to fuck her harder.”

“Wow.” “Yeah! And the part that was the best was afterwards, while we were lying in bed, I thought about what I had to do next day, and I realized I had to do nothing. Absolutely nothing. All I had to do was spend time with this beautiful girl and live in luxury. And that really took the cake. I looked down at her and I said, ‘I have nothing to do at all tomorrow. Would you like to lie in bed with me all day?’ “And she looked up at me and gave this huge fucking grin and told me that she would love to.” she leaned back in her chair and looked at me with excited eyes. “Pretty cool, right?” “Yeah, that is pretty cool.” “So what do you think it means? Maybe it’s because girls are prettier than men? Or, like, I naturally associate men with power and self assurance?” That was it. That is what confirmed everything else. Maybe she knew it already. Maybe she was helping me push the knife in, maybe she too sensed it and wanted to get it over with. But I didn’t bring it up. Instead of telling her what it really meant, instead of taking the chance of making her realize it would never work, I said with a smirk that maybe it means she’s secretly a lesbian. “Big time dyke,” I said. We’d figure it out later in the day. It didn’t need to end just yet. Her mouth turned circle, her eyes popped wide. “Asshole!” she shouted, and then crawled on top of the table -- knocking over the cereal and the milk, messing up the newspaper -- to kiss me long and hard, to try and change my mind.

Prank Jeffrey was a senior in high school whom everyone liked. He was smart, eloquent, friendly, and involved with extracurricular activities like the class executive board and the history club. His groundbreaking ideas and unimposing responsibility made him a natural leader. Because of his popularity and intelligence, faculty and students alike allowed him to do whatever he wanted. Classes were optional for Jeffrey. So was homework. But because Jeffrey was such a good person, he never really abused his privileges: his homework was almost always in on time, and he almost always attended and participated in class. By the time he reached his senior year, he realized he didn’t have a single enemy. One pleasant spring day, Jeffrey walked into the Woodsy primary school’s principal’s office. The principal and Jeffrey were good friends – they cursed in front of each other and sometimes cut school days to go out and get pancakes – so when the principal saw him coming in, he leaned forward in his chair and put his hands on his desk. He was a bald man with thick, black-framed glasses. All his suits were black or dark blue. “Jeffrey! What’s up? What can I help you with?” His voice was friendly and nasal. Jeffrey smirked mischievously as he looked at the certificates and photos inside the office. The principal did not know if Jeffrey had heard him. “Jeffrey? Won’t you sit down?” He sat down, still smirking. “Now what can I help you with?” At first, Jeffrey did not respond. He looked down at his hands, intertwined, resting on his lap. The principal waited. Finally, looking up from his hands, Jeffrey asked: “Principal, do you like pranks?” The principal’s eyes lit up. “Pranks? Oh, I love pranks! One time, I remember, I replaced all the sugar with salt in the teacher’s lounge, and all the teachers put the salt in their coffees and drank it! You should’ve seen their faces, Jeffrey. I almost died from laughter.” “Well, Principal,” said Jeffrey as he reclined in his seat, “I think I have a good idea for a prank, a great prank, but I’d need your help.” “Sure, Jeffrey! What did you have in mind?” “I want to pretend to take the school hostage and trick the rest of the town.” The principal roared with laughter. “That’s a great idea! We’d certainly get everyone if we did that. It would probably take a lot of work, though.” “It would. That’s why I need your help. In fact I need the entire faculty’s help.” “That shouldn’t be a problem,” the principal grinned. “I’ll head over to the teacher’s lounge right now and talk to everyone about it.” “Thanks, Principal.” And Jeffrey left the room.

When the principal went to the teacher’s lounge and told everyone about the prank, everyone agreed that pretending to hold the school hostage would be hilarious and praised Jeffrey for thinking up another great idea. The gym teacher, an avid gun collector, offered his weapons to be used as props. “We could fire the gun to let the cops know that there really are guns.” All the teachers were very excited about the project. Jeffrey and the principal met up the next day and decided the next time that every student at Woodsy primary school was accounted for, they would have a big assembly to tell the students about the idea. When that day came, the students all shuffled into the auditorium, curious as to why they were called there. At the front of the auditorium stood the principal and Jeffrey, smiling. All the teachers seemed to have stifled smiles on their faces, too. “We called this assembly today,” the principal started, “because our friend Jeffrey has come up with a great idea for a prank we can play on everyone.” A murmur resonated among the audience. The principal asked them to settle down. “Now, does anyone know what a ‘hostage’ is?” The auditorium was quiet. A hand shot up – it was little Billy’s. “Yes, Billy, what is it?” “Isn’t it a person that’s kidnapped?” The principal and Jeffrey shared a warm smile between each other. “It’s sort of like that, Billy, yes,” the principal said, “but the difference between a hostage and someone who’s kidnapped is that a hostage is normally held in a public place. That is, the location of him and the kidnapper is known and there are normally police men outside trying to get to the hostage, too.” Billy raised his hand again. “Yes, Billy – go ahead.” “But why don’t the police just go in and get them?” “Get the hostages?” Billy nodded. “Because the kidnapper tells the police men he will kill the hostage if they try and come in.” The principal looked out to the rest of the auditorium. “Now does everyone understand what a hostage is?” “Yeeeees!” “Good. What we want to do is pretend that the school has been taken hostage by Jeffrey and some of his friends.” The entire auditorium turned electric. “What a great idea!” “That would be so cool!” The principal asked the students to settle down again. “We can make this work, but we’re going to need all of you to cooperate.” The students remained quiet, but the silence was avid and eager.

“When this assembly ends, you will all go back to your respective classes, where you will have a discussion with your teachers for ideas and ways you can help make the prank good.” The principal looked over at Jeffrey. “Is there anything you would like to say?” “No. You covered just about everything.” “All right, then! I hope you are all as excited as Jeffrey and I are.” The assembly was dismissed. All the students talked excitedly as they walked back to their classrooms. “I got lots of stage blood,” Jimmy, an eight-year-old, said. “I bet we could use that.” “I can pretend to be killed,” Susie, a second-grader, said. “We’ll need a way to get the cops to come in so we can surprise them eventually,” Jeffrey confided to the principal after the assembly, “so I think we should have one of the students get away from me and the other hostage-takers, and he’ll notify the police of an intentionally unguarded entrance.” “We should bring in board games to play with while we’re still in the school,” Brad, a first-grader, said. The announcement had been made on Wednesday. Because both Jeffrey and the principal agreed having the students stay quiet for too long also allowed more time for the plan to accidentally be mentioned to a parent or guardian, they decided the prank would happen on Friday. Between the assembly and Friday, students had to make sure they didn’t mention anything about it to their parents or friends who did not go to Woodsy primary school. Even the principal had to check his excitement while eating his lima beans at dinner in order not to reveal the whole plan to his wife. Normal class schedules were canceled for the rest of the week. Instead, the teachers received assignments that told the students what they should and should not do on Friday. The teachers also pulled special students aside who would play more important roles in the prank to tell them what their unique responsibilities were. For the most part, the only responsibility the student body had was to listen to Jeffrey. This was not a problem because everyone liked Jeffrey very much, even the problem children who were nuisances for most of the primary school’s faculty. Brad would bring board games like he suggested and tell his mother it was for show and tell. And Jenny, whose birthday was that Friday, promised munchkins for everyone. Finally the day came, and all the students, jovial and talkative, walked into the auditorium. Jeffrey and five of his friends from the high school who would also play the parts of hostage-takers stood at the front. Jeffrey motioned for the students to quiet down. “Well, today is the big day. I hope you are all as excited as I am, and I’m sure if all of you do what you’re supposed to, this will be the best prank our town has ever seen. Now, does anyone have any questions about their roles?” Not one hand was raised. Jeffrey smiled. “Good. Let’s get started!”

Jeffrey took his cell phone out of his pocket and dialed 9-1-1. Milly, one of the best actresses in the school, walked up to the front of the auditorium. Jeffrey smiled at Milly. Milly smiled at Jeffrey. Jeffrey gave Milly the cell phone. The audience sat quietly. Then, Milly began sobbing and screaming. “Help me! Help me! They have guns! —No, I – at the primary school, please! – hurry! I don’t want to die, please! -- Five of them! They shot the principal! Please, they shot the principal!” Jeffrey took the phone from her. “We’re at the primary school. We have all the entrances blocked. If you try to come in we will start shooting people.” He hung up the phone and looked up at all the children, each of them itching to become contributors to the greatest prank ever. “Everybody! To your places!” Jeffrey peeked out through the blinds from the cafeteria window. Outside were a bunch of SWAT cars and news teams. He even saw some parents standing behind a road block. “What do you see, Jeffrey?” asked one of the students. The blinds were down throughout the whole school. There was not a naked window in sight. He looked back at the students and grinned. “There’s a news team!” “Really? That must mean we’re on TV!” “Yeah! Turn on the TV! I want to see us!” Jeffrey went over to the television at the front of the cafeteria and turned it on. There was a visual feed of the school from a helicopter, and underneath the visual there was a headline that said STUDENTS HELD HOSTAGE IN PRIMARY SCHOOL. It sounded like an anchorwoman was talking to a man via phone, but the conversation could hardly be heard over the students’ voices. Jeffrey’s cell phone rang. He motioned towards the other students to quiet down and picked it up. “Hello?” “Is this Jeffrey?” “Yeah.” “Hello, Jeffrey, this is Officer Wayne. I guess you know why I’m calling.” “Yeah, I do.” “First thing’s first, Jeffrey: is anyone hurt? Is everyone ok?” Jeffrey put the phone down and looked at the children with a gaping grin. “I don’t know and I don’t care.” “Look Jeffrey, there are parents out here who want to make sure their children are ok. They’re worried about them.” “That’s their problem.” Officer Wayne sighed. “Did you shoot the principal? Is that true?” Jeffrey slid another grin to the students listening to the conversation. “Yeah I shot the principal. I shot him in his ugly fucking face.” The students covered their mouths with their hands to muffle the laughter. “Has anyone else been shot?”

“Probably.” “Probably?” “Well I’m not the only one. There are a few of us all over the school. If you try and come in though I swear to God we will blow heads off.” “All right, that’s fine, Jeffrey. We won’t try and come in. But how can we get everyone out?” “Call me back in an hour,” Jeffrey responded. “If you call before an hour’s up, someone will die.” Then Jeffrey hung up the phone. The students asked who it was. “It was some policeman. He sure sounded upset,” Jeffrey giggled. “I can only imagine how red his face is right now!” Charlie was chosen to call the police and tell them about the unguarded entranceway that Jeffrey had mentioned to the principal earlier. When Jeffrey gave him the signal, he was to dial 9-1-1, tell the operator his name, that the south wing doors were unguarded, and that the police could come through those doors without the hostage-takers knowing. He was a kindergartner with curly, black hair, and he admired Jeffrey an awful lot. When the principal had asked for Charlie to come to his office on Thursday morning over the PA, he thought he was in trouble, and what made it worse was that he had never been called to the principal’s office before. It was a relief to see Jeffrey standing next to the seated principal. He tiptoed in and made sure the door did not slam when he shut it. “Hello, Charlie. Please come and sit down. Don’t worry, you’re not in trouble. Jeffrey here just wanted to talk to you about something.” Charlie nodded and sat down at one of the chairs in front of the desk. “Hello, Charlie, how are you?” When Jeffrey spoke, Charlie felt an incredible amount of warmth and affection he never received from anyone other than his parents, and even that was rare, so he stared up in awe and told him he was good. “That’s good. Now, I’m sure you know about the big prank tomorrow, right?” Charlie nodded. “Well, Charlie, I was wondering if you could help me and the principal out. You see, in order for the prank to end, we are going to need to get the police to come in without them knowing it’s a prank. That way we can surprise them.” Jeffrey looked at Charlie to check if he understood, and Charlie nodded. “Charlie, what me and the principal would like you to do is at some point in the day call the police and tell them there is a doorway that no one is around. If no one is around that door,” Jeffrey explained, “they won’t be afraid of anyone getting hurt, and they can go into the school.” “Okay,” he said. “Now this is a very important job, so I want to make sure you are ok with it. Do

you think you can handle this responsibility?” The word “responsibility” excited Charlie. He nodded eagerly. “Yeah,” he said. “I can do it.” “That’s great, Charlie.” Jeffrey smiled right at him and Charlie smiled back. “I’ll tell you everything you need to know the day of the prank.” “Now head back to class,” said the principal, and Charlie walked quickly back to his room. On the walk back he sang a made-up theme song about himself, and at one point he even jumped and spun around in mid-air. Now he sat at one of the cafeteria tables, nervous and waiting for Jeffrey to tell him to make the call. He picked inside his ear. He tapped the lunch table. He watched the television screen and saw his friend George’s mother being interviewed, her face red and crunched up from crying, making incomprehensible and fearful statements. George was not watching the television screen – he was talking to another student - so Charlie poked his back to get his attention. “Hey George,” he said, pointing to the television screen. “Look. It’s your mom.” George, another kindergartner with lighter hair and a sharp crew cut, looked up and saw his mom crying. There was a pause, and then he turned back to Charlie, his face lit up. “Boy, won’t she be surprised when she finds out it’s a joke!” It was a very mild spring day without a cloud in sight and the early afternoon sky shone a triumphant blue. It was the kind of mild weather where people could go outside in whatever they were wearing and be comfortable and car windows could be left lowered and unattended. Perfect, transitional weather. Outside, where the police barricades were up, the parents all huddled as close as possible as they could to the school building. They all looked very nervous or were crying and kept asking for information. Some were trying to call their children using cellular phones. Others were on cell phones with loved ones who tried to assure them that everything would be all right. The news reporters had approached George’s mother to ask how she was doing and for her thoughts. In between sobs, she told George that if he was watching TV inside the school, or if he saw her on TV, she wanted him to know that she loved him very much and that he should stay brave. The students passed the day playing hangman or board games that Brad had brought, and sometimes Jeffrey got up in front of the cafeteria and read them stories, making silly voices for the characters and acting out the silly parts until the children were exhausted from laughing. Jeffrey was in the middle of a story about Billy Goats when his phone rang a second time, but he didn’t hear it. The students tried to get his attention and shouted and called his name. Finally Jeffrey realized something was up. “What’s the problem, guys?” “Your phone is ringing, Jeffrey!” “Don’t you want to hear the rest of the story?”

“Yes, but—“ “Well, pay attention then!” And Jeffrey went back into character, stamping his feet and bleating. “But your phone is ringing!” He jumped out of character again. “My what?” “Your phone!” “My foam?” The children started laughing. “No, not your foam—“ “I don’t have any foam on me. And if I did, why would it ring?” “Not your foam, Jeffrey! Your phone!” Jeffrey slapped his forehead. “Ohhh! My phone! Why didn’t you say so in the first place?” The children could not stop laughing and tried to tell Jeffrey that they had told him that his phone was ringing, but he misheard them, but it was too much to say in too little time. So finally the laughter subsided, Jeffrey asked them to quiet down again, and he picked it up. “Yeah.” “Jeffrey, it’s Officer Wayne again.” “I know.” “It’s been over an hour, hasn’t it?” “Yeah. So what?” “Well, Jeffrey, I wanted to talk more.” Jeffrey rolled his eyes and made his hand yap yap yap. There was some giggling, but the other students shushed it before it could get louder. “About what?” “Is everyone still ok?” “Yeah.” “Good. So how do we get everyone out of there?” “I don’t know.” “You don’t know?” “I don’t.” “Do you want anything? Anything we could give you to get everyone out safely?” “Everyone will get out safely if you don’t piss me off.” “But when will they get out?” “When I feel like it.” “Jeffrey, don’t you understand that you are doing something very dangerous? And a lot of the parents out here are very worried about their children?” “Are they worried about me?” “They’re worried about everyone.” “Bullshit.” “Please try to understand—“

“No!” interrupted Jeffrey. “Shut up! You don’t understand! We’re sick of this bullshit, and if someone doesn’t do something soon, some of these fuckers are gonna get killed!” The students at the tables held in their snickers. Jeffrey looked at them and smiled while listening to Officer Wayne at the other end. He put his finger to his lips to indicate that they should stay quiet. Officer Wayne told him he didn’t know what he was supposed to do, but Jeffrey wasn’t listening. “If you call me in the next two hours someone here is getting shot.” He hung up the phone. The students guffawed when he finished. “I can’t believe they’re falling for it!” “This is so awesome.” “I can’t wait to see their faces.” Jeffrey told them to quiet down. “What do you guys want to do for the next hour or two?” “Let’s play hangman again!” “Yeah!” “All right,” said Jeffrey, “that sounds good.” And he pulled up the white eraser board to the front of the cafeteria. There were two words and the category was television shows. Before the game started, Jeffrey walked over to Charlie and crouched so he was the same height. “Charlie, do you remember what your responsibility is?” Charlie nodded. “Well, I think we’re about ready for you to do your job, so head over to one of the bathrooms and make the call.” Charlie got up from his seat. “Can you come with me?” Jeffrey smiled. “I would if I could, Charlie, but I need to stay here to get everyone else into position.” “Ok.” “Don’t worry. You’ll be fine.” Jeffrey put his hand on Charlie’s shoulder, and, feeling that same warmth he felt before in the principal’s office, Charlie hugged Jeffrey tightly. “I love you, too, Charlie. Now get going.” Charlie let go and headed to the bathroom. He went into one of the stalls and closed the door behind him and locked it. He placed his feet on the seat of the toilet and crouched on top of it. Then he made the phone call. “Hello, police? My name is Charlie and I am at Woodsy primary school being held hostage. I found a place that the police could come through. The south entrance doors are not guarded.” While Charlie was on the phone, Jeffrey brought all the students to the hallway in front of the south entrance. At the top of the south entrance doors were two buckets of

water that would spill on whoever came through. “All right, guys,” Jeffrey explained, “here’s the plan: when the cops come through these doors, I want everyone to point at them and yell ‘Gotcha!’ at them as loud as possible. This ought to get them real good. Sound good?” All the students nodded. “All right. Get ready!” The students waited in pouncing position. Jeffrey stood in front of all of them with his arms spread out to establish an imaginary line they could not pass. Soon they heard footsteps coming closer to the door from outside. Then the two doors opened, and a bunch of men in bullet proof vests and helmets walked in, when, all of a sudden, splaaaash! The two buckets of water fell all over the policemen. The policemen were wet, and they looked at the children. Now was their opportunity. All at the same time, the students of Woodsy primary school pointed their fingers, shouted “Gotcha!” and began rolling on the floor with laughter. Of all of them, Jeffrey was laughing the most.

2. Nobody knows who invited him, but when he showed up, the baby really put a damper on the party. It was probably eleven o’clock or midnight, everyone was just starting to get drunk and rowdy, and in he dawdles, wearing one of those tee shirts that looks like a tuxedo. I remember word getting round that he was there, and as soon as somebody heard they got really quiet and looked down at their drinks and blushed. And Joe, who only five minutes ago had been the life of the party, drunk and dancing like a sex-craved maniac, suddenly became more dangerous than entertaining when he walked by and almost stepped on him. “Hey man, chill out – there’s a baby here!” “Jeez. I didn’t know.” Joe spent the rest of the night sitting in an arm chair, nursing a drink and brooding. I felt worst for Brendan. He decided to wear his tee-shirt that said “MILF Hunter” on it for the night because he knew everyone thought it was really funny. And I mean, it would’ve been funny if the baby wasn’t there, but he was, and Brendan felt really uncomfortable about it, and I remember he spent the entire night trying to maneuver himself so the baby never saw what his shirt said, but he was pretty sure the baby saw it anyway, and he was even surer that the baby kept staring at him, glaring at him, even. “I feel like such a jerk,” he told me at the other end of the room, glancing over his shoulder. “The baby probably thinks I’m a huge dick right now. I wouldn’t’ve worn it if I knew he’d be here.” Brendan couldn’t take it after a while, and at like 12:30 or something he headed out. I told him I was sorry about the whole situation, and he told me he was the one wearing a MILF Hunter shirt, and he should’ve known better. The rest of the night was just a bunch of awkward conversations. And when the baby finally fell asleep on the couch in between this guy and girl who were obviously going to hook up, everyone became really self-conscious and started talking in whispers so they wouldn’t disturb him. No one acted angry about it, even though it was obvious that they were, and when the night came to a close, everyone was just sort of apologetic and extremely understanding, saying things like “What are you gonna do?” and “It’s not like we could kick the baby out, ya know?” And I guess it’s not really the baby’s fault. I’m sure he was just looking for a good time like everyone else. And it’s not like he was giving anyone a problem. But I mean in the end he should have known that something like this would happen. Did he think no one would notice him? And on top of that, even after he came, and everyone was obviously embarrassed, he didn’t even care. He just sort of acted like nothing was wrong and went about crawling around the room, reaching for bowls of chips on the snack table. I hope whoever invited him learned their lesson, because I seriously don’t want to go to another party where that sort of thing happens.

Was It Worth It It was a comfortable hazy spring dusk, sometime in May, with the scent of summer

in the air as the sun set. I was watching the 6 o’clock news in the family room when the doorbell rang. At first glance I wasn’t that suspicious. He was a little out of breath, maybe playing tag with some of the other miserable scamps outside, I thought, but then, when he asked me if he could use my phone, I sensed something was off. “Just real quick, I just need to make a call real quick.” Hayley always was a little bastard and I’ve never trusted him. He was behind every fight in school, every vandalized home in our neighborhood, every kid who came back from Halloween trick-or-treating covered in eggs and shaving cream, crying. I always thought he was one of those inevitable failure drug dealer kids who’d end up in rehab or jail by his junior year of high school. When I got together with the other adults and his name came up, I always nodded my head and tried to be agreeable about him and never said what I really thought, which would no doubt cause quite a scene. Still, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one out there over the age of eighteen who hated that little shit. I didn’t want to let down my nice guy persona which I’d been keeping up with the other adults for such a long time. Hayley could make one little remark about me being a dick to someone and I’d be punished with a monumental cold shoulder, and getting the cold shoulder makes life really confusing and difficult. Plus Ms. Bellfry, Jack’s mom, we’d been making a lot of eye contact recently, lots and lots of eye contact, and I figured it’d only be a matter of time before I was telling her I had a real impressive collection of fruit and vegetable preserves and she should come by sometime if she wanted to use some in her delicious cooking. I didn’t want to fuck up my chances. So I opened my door. Acted real cordial, too. “Why, sure, Hayley, come on in, right this way. Are you thirsty? Would you like something to drink?” He said no, and I led him to the kitchen. The phone was at the other end of the room. I figured he would follow me over. Instead, not ten steps after I turned to walk, I heard a really really loud bang! and felt my right arm sting hard, real heard, so much so that tears came to my eyes and I actually yelped. I turned around, and there was Hayley still standing at the other side of the kitchen. His legs were squared up, and with two hands he held a revolver, its stub nose still pointed to the ceiling from the recoil. He was too scared to try and aim again, and at first I was too shocked to make a move. I just sort of stood there with my arm in my hand, just staring. “What the fuck!” I finally managed to shout. “What the fuck!” That seemed to snap him out of his fear gaze or whatever. He got the barrel lined up again and I rushed toward him. He got one more shot off, he pulled the trigger with his eyes closed and his head turned away and missed. I reached him, smacked the pistol out of his hand and shoved him hard against the refrigerator behind him. His head smacked against the door. Suddenly his movements slowed with the recognition of pain, at which point he started to cry. But I wasn’t finished with Hayley just yet. I started shouting at him, kept calling him names: little punk, ass bitch, faggot… I used faggot a lot. Fuck, too. Whenever I

couldn’t think of another name I smacked him across the face, hard, and asked him if he liked how that felt, tough guy. The more I hit him the more hysterical he got, the more his haggard breathing and pleas for me to stop turned into frog croaks. I don’t think Hayley had any idea how much he had pissed me off over all those years of watching his sour ass grow up. I made sure to let him know then. He wouldn’t stop crying. I kept one hand on his wrist while I reached for the gun. I put it up in front of his face. “Where’d you get this.” “A friend.” “Your friend’s a bigger fuck-up than you are.” I put the gun up against his left cheek and told him to stop crying. He was only able to do so for short, anxious periods, he’d put on his stupid be strong face, but that would only last for five or ten seconds before he realized he couldn’t keep it up, and he started bawling even harder than before. He really thought I was gonna shoot him. It was great. It went like that for nearly two minutes. I was surprised it took the cops so long to show up. I mean I figure you hear a gun shot in the suburbs, you’re gonna have the entire block calling 911. Turns out Hayley had come by after shooting his mom and burning down his shed, and he figured he could kill me and hide out in my house since “Nobody knows what that guy’s deal is.” Fucking eleven-year-old punk. When he gets out of juvy, I’ll be waiting for that piece of shit, and I’ll beat his ass down just like I did last time, I promise you that.

Homeless and The Man in the Monocle: A Children’s Story for Grown-ups Homeless woke up from his spot under the only bridge in and out of town. He yawned, smacked his lips, and stretched his arms far over his head. He walked over to the nearby river to wash his hair and face when he felt his stomach grumble. It was time to eat. “Well, better now than never,” he thought, and he cleaned up his spot under the only bridge in and out of town, found his small tin mug, and started his day. It was a fresh spring morning, and though Homeless was hungry, he enjoyed the mild sun on his head and the gentle breeze on his back. It was three miles before the houses and the stores and the paved roads and traffic lights began materializing on either side of him, so it was a very nice and leisurely stroll and he took his time. When he arrived it was noon. Workers on their lunch breaks congested the sidewalks and streets. They talked on phones and wore business suits and ate sandwiches and looked unapproachable, but Homeless had done this kind of thing many times and was not afraid. In fact, many of the workers knew Homeless and were on friendly terms with him – friendly terms simply meant they did not give Homeless a hard time for asking for alms. Homeless was never upset if a worker was nice to him without offering alms. It only took a handful of generous donations for him to afford a meal, and since there were plenty of people always around town, it was very rare that he couldn’t afford a bite to eat by the end of the day. He took out his tin mug and got to work. He spent some time sitting on a busy sidewalk holding it out in front of him, and sometimes it clinked or clanked with the drop of a coin or two, and then he spent some other time walking up to the workers and asking them personally for spare change. At the end of lunch break Homeless had accumulated enough money for a hot dog and a soda at one of the street vendor stands. He ate his meal, slowly, on the steps of the public library. He was tempted to end the day on such a fantastic note and head back to his place under the bridge but decided against it – what if he wanted something else to eat? Once evening fell, and he again accrued enough change for food, then he would return to his spot under the only bridge in and out of town. Besides, it was a lovely day! Why put it to waste? Homeless spent the time between lunch and evening walking through the public park. He sat on benches and stretched out on the fresh grass and listened to the birds or the rustling of nature. During his walk he saw a homeless man sleeping underneath a tree. Homeless still had a quarter in his pocket. He walked over to him. “Hey, man,” asked Homeless, “you eat yet today?” The man asleep under the tree smiled grimly. “No, not yet, still need to find a little more cash.” “Well, here, brother, take this.” Homeless put the quarter in the other’s hand. “I already got myself a hot dog today, so I’m doing pretty good right now.” “Thanks, man, I appreciate it.” “Don’t mention it. Try and enjoy the day, alright?” *

So Homeless’s stomach started to grumble again, and as the sun began to set, he walked back to the middle of town to ask for more change. In the evening, people were not as likely to give out alms. They all walked quickly and with purpose, eager to get home to their families. Homeless was aware of this; he did not expect to receive as much money as he had earlier in the day, but then he stumbled on a very generous and unusual man. Since we never get to know this man’s name, and since his most distinguishing trait was his monocle, so thick that it appeared opaque when looking at it head on, we will simply call him the Man in the Monocle. The Man in the Monocle wore very stately, navy blue clothes, and he had white long combed-back hair and a stylish goatee paired with an even more stylish handlebar moustache. At first Homeless was apprehensive to ask him for alms -- his appearance was so outlandish Homeless thought there was a good chance that The Man in the Monocle, too, was unemployed -- but it appeared this oddlooking man was actually looking directly at Homeless, almost inviting him to start a conversation. So, knowing he really had nothing to lose, he approached The Man in the Monocle and made his plea. “Say, brother-man, you wouldn’t happen to have a few coins to pass on for a bite to eat, would ya?” Upon being addressed, The Man in the Monocle expressed a broad, toothless, grin. When he spoke even his voice sounded regal. “Why, of course, my good man! I will gladly help out another in need!” “Oh bless you, anything will help.” The Man in the Monocle took out a small leather purse from under his jacket and removed a large green wad of bills. Homeless had never seen so much money in his life, and his eyes widened and his hands shook when he saw the Man in the Monocle carelessly flip through it until he finally peeled off a single green layer and handed it to him. It was a hundred dollar bill. “Here you go, sir! One hundred dollars! Go out, get your hair cut, a clean shave, a nice hot shower, some new clothes, and find yourself a job!” Homeless looked down at the crisp bill, bewildered. “Th-thank you, man! God bless you, man!” The Man in the Monocle waved his hand. “Think nothing of it. Make the best of that hundred dollars, boy! I have given you your future!” “Oh, bless you, sir! Thank you!” And just like that the Man in the Monocle was gone, and Homeless was left with his hundred dollars. He had never seen so much money in his life. Sure, the Man in the Monocle had given him an itinerary of things to do, but Homeless had other plans. He wanted to taste a lobster for the first time in his life. He wanted to get drunk on a fine bottle of wine, maybe see a movie too. His head was reeling. He decided he’d make the best out of those hundred dollars according to himself! It took three days for Homeless to spend the money. The first thing he did was eat

lobster at a fancy restaurant. That, he thought, was overrated – what’s the point of a delicacy if it only tastes good when you douse it in butter? Every night, he got himself a fine bottle of wine and drank it all at his spot under the bridge, and every night he sang his favorite songs and danced by himself and splashed in the water of the nearby river. He saw a movie, three of them actually, and laughed and cried and yelped in fear. By the time he spent the entire hundred dollars he looked and felt worse than he had before. His last bottle of wine caused a day-long hangover, full of vomiting and diarrhea, his appetite had grown so that a hot dog no longer filled him up, and his walk into town wasn’t as enjoyable as he remembered it to be. The workers smelled wine on his breath and were less willing to hand him alms. Walking through the town, he shook his head and realized he had made a mistake. Things even got worse two days later when he saw the Man in the Monocle walking through town again. He looked upon Homeless in disgust. “You! What have you done! Your hair has not been cut! Your beard wasn’t shaved! Your clothes are still in tatters! And – what’s this?” The Man in the Monocle sniffed. “Is that alcohol I smell? What is the meaning of this!” “Man, I’m sorry, man, but I wasted that hundred dollars on booze and food and movies. I made a big mistake, man, I’m sorry. I feel stupid.” The Man in the Monocle’s head turned purple, and steam blew out his nostrils. “You inept, ungrateful little swine! I give you your future and you throw it away! I should thrash you right here with my cane! Do you hear me??” Then he did something completely unexpected – he went back into his coat, found his leather purse, and once again peeled off a hundred dollar bill and handed it to the already too confused Homeless! “Now do as I say this time! Get yourself clothes and clean yourself up and find a job! If you don’t, I will personally beat the living daylights out of you!” Homeless did not hear the threat, he was so happy to have more money. “Really, brother? You mean it?” “Yes I mean it! Now get out of my sight before I blow a gasket!” Another hundred dollars! This time, Homeless vowed to do just as the Man in the Monocle said. He got his hair cut and shampooed and got his dirty scraggly beard shaved off, too. He brought some soap and showered at one of the town’s community centers. Then, he got himself a nice collared shirt and some khakis. Homeless felt spiffy. He felt like the handsomest devil in the whole town, and he still had twenty dollars to spare! He was certain that if he went to a bar, he could probably pick up a woman and sleep with her. So he went to a local pub, spent his last twenty dollars, and ended up going back to a woman’s apartment, where she and Homeless spent the night doing various explicit things. The next morning he stepped outside and he was satisfied. But now he was back to being penniless. He needed to find a job. But all the places hiring did not impress Homeless. They were low, menial jobs that didn’t catch his eye. He wanted to do something better, like be famous or a genius. So after finding no jobs that suited him he spent the day asking for alms to get him by for the day. He was surprised to find people were more generous than they ever had been

with him before, and by the end of the day he had money to afford plenty of food as well as a pint of vodka, which he drank that night at his spot under the bridge, singing his favorite songs and dancing and splashing in the nearby river. The next morning, Homeless woke up by a gentle kick in his side. He was groggy from the night before, and it took him a second to realize that the person standing above him was the Man in the Monocle. “Well, I see you’ve cleaned yourself up. Have you found a job?” Homeless was confused. “Hey, man, how did you know I was here? What gives?” “That’s none of your business. Have you found a job?” Homeless sat up and with one hand scratched behind his head. “Nah, man, not yet.” “What? There are plenty of entry-level positions available. What’s the problem?” “Well, man, nothing really piques my interest, know what I mean?” The Man in the Monocle’s moustache bunched up. “Is that so?” “Yeah, I mean, I don’t wanna be no dishwasher, dig?” “Oh? And what would you like to be instead?” “Well I was thinkin’ maybe bein’ like a celebrity would be a pretty good gig.” “A celebrity?” roared the Man in the Monocle. “Yeah, they seem to live pretty –“ And before Homeless knew it the Man in the Monocle had landed a kick straight into his gut. “Buffoon!” he shouted, followed by a punch in the face, “Ignoramus!” followed by a step in the groin, “Idiot!” followed by a kick in the face, “Cretin!” finally followed by another kick in the gut. Homeless was panting hard. He was in a lot of pain and wanted to know why the Man in the Monocle had beaten him, but he couldn’t find the strength to ask. So the Man in the Monocle spoke instead. “You think you can just become a celebrity? You must work to achieve that! That does not fall upon everybody! You can’t just walk into a celebrity factory and walk out rich and famous! Sir, being a celebrity takes hard work. If you start at an entry level position, and you work hard enough, then you can achieve fame and fortune!” Homeless was not completely sure but he thought he was coughing up blood. The Man in the Monocle continued. “I am giving you another fifty dollars. Get yourself patched up, and start at the first job you find, you understand? I will help you through it and tell you what you need to do to become famous. But do not disobey again! Understood? If you disobey me again I will kill you myself!” he leaned in close to Homeless’s pained face. “Remember: nobody

misses a dead bum.” * It took Homeless a whole day to recover from his bruises and scrapings before he was able to get up and walk all the way into town. He spent that day in fear. How did the Man in the Monocle find him? Who was he? Why did he find it so important that Homeless find a job? The way it sounded, finding any job he wanted was not worth the effort. Hard work? Why, he was just fine with the way he was living before, only making enough for his meals and sleeping at his spot under the bridge. But it no longer mattered what he wanted. The Man in the Monocle made it perfectly clear that if Homeless didn’t start working soon there could be fatal consequences. Homeless was very certain he did not want to die an unnatural death. He looked down at the fifty dollars. “On to bigger and better things, I guess,” he thought. After recovering, Homeless used the money to clean up his clothes and get some bandages, and walked into the first store with a Help Wanted sign. “Hey, I saw your help wanted sign.” “Yeah. Can you wash dishes?” “Sure, I don’t see why not.” The manager looked at Homeless suspiciously. “What’s with all the scrapes and bruises?” “Oh, yeah – “ he looked down and then back up. “I got mugged.” So Homeless got a fulltime job working as a dishwasher at a diner in town. Now, every morning before heading in, he made sure to look presentable, and kept a close eye on his one nice outfit of clothing. When he received his first check, his eyes almost popped out of his head – he had never made so much money before in his life! He imagined going to the bar, buying everyone a round and making friends and sleeping with the most beautiful woman there, before he remembered what happened the last time he did that, specifically with the Man in the Monocle. He decided it would be better to put it to different uses. He purchased himself three new outfits of clothing, as well as toiletries, including razors, shaving cream, and tooth paste. He still had money leftover but was reluctant to use it for alcohol. The Man in the Monocle stopped by one evening at Homeless’s spot under the bridge while Homeless was sitting on the ground, in deep contemplation about what to do with the remaining cash. “Hello, Homeless.” Homeless’s head shot up. “Hey, man, how’d you know my name?” “That’s not important,” The Man in the Monocle replied. He saw Homeless’s three new outfits hanging from one of the beams at his spot under the bridge and smiled. “It seems like you’re doing better since last time.” “Oh, yeah, man, totally.” “You found a job?” “Yeah. I’m working over as a dishwasher at a diner.” “And I see you’ve been putting your money to good use…” “Yeah, I thought you’d like it, man. But now,” Homeless continued, showing the

Man in the Monocle the extra cash, “I got all this leftover.” “And what do you intend to do with it?” “That’s the thing, man! I have no idea. I mean, I was thinking about going out to the bars–“ The Man in the Monocle frowned. “—but I knew that wouldn’t make you happy.” “Yes, Homeless, you made the correct assumption.” “So, now I have, like, no idea what to with it!” “Well, Homeless,” said the Man in the Monocle, squatting down to speak at eye level, “I said I’d help you, and I will. Now that you’re finally on the right track to success, it would be my pleasure to offer you some advice.” “Oh, man, that’d be great! I really appreciate it!” “Now, what you have is not an impressive amount of cash, but it’s certainly enough to start a bank account. Have you ever had a bank account before, Homeless?” “Nah, I can’t say I have.” “A bank account is a place where you can save all your unused money safely. And on top of that, over time the money in your account can collect interest.” Homeless was perplexed. “Interest?” “Yes, Homeless. That’s when the money in your account increases over time.” “Really? Without even working?” “That’s correct, but you should not be under the impression that interest creates a whole lot of money. You’ll still need to work.” The Man in the Monocle got up from his squatting position. “I’d suggest that you put whatever extra money you have in a bank account for now, and continue doing so every week. When you start storing enough cash, we will discuss investments. Now, have you been working hard at your job?” Homeless nodded. “Good. Work as hard as you can. The harder you work, the more your employer will like you, and the more likely you will get a promotion and make more money. I will come by one day this week to look around the place.” The Man in the Monocle put his hand on Homeless’s shoulder. “I have big plans for you, Homeless. You will be more powerful than you ever imagined!” And he left as quickly as he arrived. * Thus turned a new leaf for Homeless. He worked hard as a dishwasher and made good money and put all his leftover money in the bank. He stopped drinking altogether, and the next time the Man in the Monocle came by he came with blueprints Homeless could give his manager to make the diner a more efficient and lucrative business. He also told Homeless to feel free to spend some of the money on himself, though he advised against drink and “idle vice.” The first thing Homeless purchased was a gramophone and some records; he had no use for an electronic system because he had no outlets at his spot under the bridge.

Then he brought a few more articles of clothing, as well as a mattress he could sleep on. When he showed his manager the plans to make the diner a more efficient and lucrative business, he was so impressed that he promoted Homeless to assistant manager. Sure, it meant Homeless had to work more hours, and he had more responsibility, but he started to make bigger and better money. He purchased a bedframe for his mattress and a fullbody mirror and was still putting the majority of his paychecks in the bank. He brought fancy shampoo and soap and cologne and two lounge chairs. He loved spending his nights listening to his gramophone while resting on his new bed. One day while Homeless was at work, the regional district manager of the diner came by to inspect how things were going. It was a very nerve-wracking day for both manager and assistant manager. They kept all the employees on edge – if anyone made a mistake, Homeless was immediately upon them, growling and cursing and asking if they were trying to get themselves fired. But by the end of the day the regional district manager was impressed with their overall maintenance. “What most impressed me,” said the regional district manager, “was the way the diner is set up to function at optimum efficiency. Of all the diners I have inspected, yours is hands down the most successful!” And before Homeless could say anything, even blush, he heard his manager say, “Yes, sir. I came up with the idea a few months ago. It’s been working quite well.” The regional district manager slapped him on the shoulder. “Keep up the good work, Johnson!” * The Man in the Monocle came by that week to see how things were going and jumped out of his lounge chair when Homeless told him what had happened with the regional district manager. “Curses!” he shouted. “That bastard thinks he can steal all the credit, does he? Well, Homeless, we can work around it, my boy.” “We can?” “Of course! We’re not afraid of him! Here,” The Man in the Monocle handed him a clutter of papers. “Here are more plans to make the executive infrastructure work even better. You get yourself a meeting with the regional district manager, tell him how that thieving manager of yours stole your ideas, and then present him with these plans as proof of your ability.” “So, like, what’ll happen then?” The Man in the Monocle stared at him. “Well, if he knows what’s good for him, he’ll promote you above the manager!” “Above the manager?” “That’s right. You’ll be making an even more impressive amount than what you’re making now.” It was difficult for Homeless to even believe that such a number could exist, so he didn’t think much about it. “Now,” continued the Man in the Monocle, “I also came here to talk about

investing. It’s time to make your money work for you!” That night Homeless learned all about mutual funds and stocks and trading, and by the end of the evening, he had built himself a very impressive portfolio. When the Man and the Monocle was finished talking to him and stood up to leave, he looked around the spot under the bridge “Homeless, what are your hobbies?” “Well, you know, I guess just music.” “You should get new hobbies. Learn to appreciate the finer things. Stock yourself a bar with nice liquors and purchase some fine cigars.” “But I thought you told me not to drink.” “Yes, but a drink of the finer stuff on occasion is good for the soul.” * The next day at work, Homeless noticed that his manager was reluctant to look him in the eyes or to talk with him at all. Their once friendly relationship had become strained. Did he know Homeless had more tricks up his sleeve? “He must be afraid of me,” he thought. He made no mention of his meeting with the district regional manager, either. On the day of the meeting, Homeless lied and explained he had to leave early for a doctor’s appointment. The manager showed no suspicion and let him leave. Homeless got on a train and headed to the city by commuter rail. The city was nothing like the town. It was enormous, its smallest building was bigger than the town’s largest, and the sidewalks were saturated with business suits and bustle. At first everything frightened Homeless, he thought at any moment one of those big business men would start shouting at him to get out of the way, but he puffed up his chest and marched over to the big corporate building where the regional district manager worked. The inside was filled with marble and statues and fountains. Homeless took an elevator up to the 38th floor. He found the regional district manager sitting at his desk in his gigantic office. Directly behind him was a trophy case, and next to that was the mounted head of an elephant. The regional district manager was hard at work and didn’t even look up to talk. “Yes, Homeless, what is it. You wanted to see me?” Homeless gulped. “Well, yeah, man, sir, I wanted to see you about the inspection you, uh, conducted at our diner a few weeks ago—“ The regional district manager was still writing and shuffling papers. “Yes, yes, the most successful inspection we’ve ever seen. We still talk about it up here. Now what about it? I’m very busy, and I don’t have much time for anything other than work.” “Well, you see, that set up for the diner wasn’t the manager’s – it was mine.” The regional district manager looked up. “Excuse me?” “Yeah, he, like, lied, man. It was totally bullshit.” “Homeless, you do understand that unless you have any way to prove this, I can only understand what you’re doing right now as an act of jealousy and immaturity. Now,

do you have proof?” Homeless almost forgot the binder of plans he had brought with him. He walked up and put them down on the desk. “Yeah, man! I do! Check this out!” The regional district manager looked inconvenienced, but he took the binder anyway and started reading, and the more he read the faster his eyes moved from line to line, and the more he shook. He looked up at Homeless, and now he no longer looked so hard. “Homeless – this is incredible! This will revolutionize the way we do business!” Homeless had no idea that the plans were that incredible, but he played along. “Yeah, man. See what I mean? See how that douchebag lied?” Now the regional district manager was standing up and moving rapidly out from behind his desk. “My God! I’m sorry I ever doubted you! Homeless, you are going places! From now on, you’re no longer working at the diner! You’re an official executive! You’re gonna have your own office, your own secretary, and an astronomical salary!” Though the phrase is often used in storytelling, reaching a point at which some people may characterize it as “cliché,” for all intents and purposes, Homeless’s head was now spinning. This was far more than he ever imagined could happen. An executive! Homeless envisioned himself hard at work, talking on phones and eating with powerful men. That Man in the Monocle must be a genius! “So, like, when do I start?” he asked once he found his voice. “As soon as possible. We’ll start setting up your office immediately. How does tomorrow sound?” “Sure, that’s cool.” “Don’t even worry about letting your manager know about the promotion. We’ll take care of that. Now go home and get some rest! We want you looking chipper for your first day.” Homeless could not sit still the entire trip back to his spot under the bridge. He paced up and down the commuter rail car in overwhelming excitement, and broke into a light happy jog when he got off. Back at his spot under the bridge he thought of the ways to improve it. A second bed and floor, some fine art to hang up on the pillars, more records, the best liquor, china… he’d need nicer suits, too. Maybe even electricity. He probably could afford the extension chords, or a generator. He poured himself a nice glass of scotch and listened to his favorite song and fell asleep. Wait till the Man in the Monocle heard! * Homeless found out he was making more money than he could have ever imagined, so he was able to do everything he wanted to and then some. He even hired a servant. Now he had three beds (one for the servant, and one (which was on the newly constructed second floor (a loft that could be reached by ladder)) for anyone from work who visited him and didn’t want to make the long trip home at night), an armoire, a lamp, a refrigerator, a big table, five chairs, and much, much more. And now that he had a lamp he started reading, as well. When he wasn’t expecting guests there would be books

strewn everywhere amongst his records and dirty glasses his servant still needed to wash in the river. But when he did have company, Homeless was a fantastic host. Although he never had people over for dinner, he served them the finest liquors, the nicest cigars, and exciting discussion. Most of his friends were coworkers whom he made friends with. He even made something of a girlfriend out of his secretary, who came over often, as well. The Man in the Monocle stopped by occasionally, but he never had as much to say as he had once had before. For the most part he was satisfied with giving snippets advice and helping Homeless come up with new means for efficiency in the business. He was very satisfied with the way Homeless was living. Homeless could not shake the feeling that now that he had achieved success, the two of them would start drifting apart. He hoped not. As much as he was afraid of him, Homeless admired the Man in the Monocle. Besides, he still needed help with money management and business. He didn’t want to mess it all up! One nice Saturday afternoon, Homeless was sitting at one of his chairs, listening to some music and reading, when a long, long, limousine pulled up to his spot. Out of it came a man dressed in a sharp tuxedo. A thin black moustache was etched onto his top lip and he had no chin. “Hey, guy, what’s goin’ on? What can I help you with?” Apparently he had no sense of humor, either, because the man from the limousine did not smile at Homeless’s friendly welcome. “You are invited to come to a dinner party this evening.” “Whose dinner party?” “You should know, I suspect.” Homeless smiled. “Wait a second… I get to see my boy’s place? The guy with the eye—?” he asked, pointing to an imaginary monocle on his own face. “Yes. That is correct.” “Alright! I’m in! Just gimme a minute.” Homeless put on his nicest suit. “Ok! Let’s do this!” The man from the limousine opened the door for Homeless and Homeless stepped in. The inside was tremendous: there were TVs, a full bar, even a Jacuzzi at the other end. Homeless took a seat near the rear of the car and his copassenger sat across from him. “This is great!” Homeless exclaimed. He got no reply. His host sat there blankly, staring at him, and he did so for the entire ride. All three hours of it. The Man in the Monocle lived in a tremendous mansion at the top of a tremendous hill. It was nighttime when they pulled up, but it didn’t look like there was a single light on inside. Homeless didn’t mention it though, not after such a rigid ride. He just looked up quietly and took it all in on his own. The man with the thin moustache rang the doorbell, and a blonde haired young man in a white servant’s outfit opened the door. He looked like a normal person, except his eyes were incredibly crossed – the right one was pointed all the way to the right, and

the left one was pointed all the way to the left. Homeless didn’t have time to stare, for the servant lit up with excitement as soon as the door was opened. “Homeless! Good to see you made it! He’ll be so happy!” he directed his attention to the man with the mustache. “I’ll take it from here, Geoff.” Geoff bowed, turned around and went back into the limousine, and the limousine slowly rolled away. The servant beckoned him in. “You don’t know how happy he’ll be to see you, Homeless! My name is Buford, by the way. I’m his personal butler. Let me show you to the dining room.” It was odd inside. Though the rooms were enormous with high, high ceilings, there were no decorations, nor were there any carpeting or rugs. Everything was blank and white. What was even odder was that Buford managed to crash into things. When he turned around after closing the door behind Homeless he tripped over his feet and did a front flip, but his demeanor never changed. From what Homeless saw, Buford was a very happy and energetic fellow who needed to have a lot happen to him to get upset. He went on and on about the Man in the Monocle while the two of them walked through several empty rooms. Buford bumped into walls, missed doorways, and generally lacked any sort of coordination. “You’re lucky to know such a great man, Homeless,” he said after getting up and brushing himself off after one of his falls. “He’s an inspiration for us all. A true example of how hard work and determination can get you whatever you want! I don’t even see this as a job. It’s more of a blessing, being in his presence, listening to him, following him. You know what I’m talking about, don’t you, Homeless?” “Yeah, I think so.” “Of course you do. How can anyone’s who’s met him not know what I’m talking about?” Buford made a sudden sharp turn and walked straight into one of the walls. “Oh! How clumsy of me!” The dining room was apparently the only room with something in it. A long table was in the middle, and at the far end was the Man in the Monocle, sitting in a most kingly manner. “There he is!” whispered Buford to Homeless. Then he addressed the Man in the Monocle, shouting since the other end of the table was so far away: “I found him, sir! Here’s Homeless, sir! He’s accepted your invitation!” “Splendid,” he replied. “Buford, you are dismissed.” “Very well, sir!” Buford bowed to both of them and walked out. The Man in the Monocle smiled warmly and motioned to the seat all the way at the other end of the table. It didn’t sound like he was straining himself, but his voice was heard perfectly. “Please, sit down.” Homeless sat down. The Man in the Monocle looked like a blot of red white and blue, he was so far away. “I’m glad you made it, Homeless, in more than one sense of the phrase.”

“Hey, man, I’m glad ya asked me over! Finally get to see your place!” “What do you think?” Homeless feigned a slow, steady look around. “It’s interestin’.” “I will take that as a compliment. It took me my entire life to get all this. It took all my tact, all my cunning to achieve what you see here. Would you like a drink?” “Sure, sounds good to me.” “Anything in particular?” “Nah, I’m sure whatever you choose’ll be delicious.” “Very well.” Homeless could make out the motion of his head tilting back. “Buford!” There was the sound of things falling and the occasional yelp, and then Buford was there, beside the Man in the Monocle. “Yes, sir, what is it?” “Bring out a bottle of my personal merlot, as well as the first plate.” Buford bowed. “Certainly, sir! At once, sir!” He turned around too quickly and fell. “How clumsy!” And he was out of the room. Homeless cleared his throat. “That’s, uh, that’s quite the help you got there.” “Buford is a pitiable being, an invalid, but I deal with him because he admires me so much. It really is something to have someone so blindly admire you, Homeless. I’m sure you could find someone like that soon enough.” “Really?” “Of course. Followers are everywhere. And as you acquire more and more power, the more they will flock to you.” Homeless didn’t like the sound of this. “Oh. That’s pretty… interesting.” Buford was already back in the room. Somehow he had managed to carry all the wine and food on one tray without spilling anything. He put a plate down in front of the Man in the Monocle, then a glass, then poured him his wine. He rushed over to Homeless’ place and did the same. While this was happening, the Man in the Monocle spoke. “Homeless, I want you to know that I did not just call you to share a meal. There are other, far more profound reasons as to why I requested you here. See,” he said, grabbing his now full glass of wine, “you were something of a test for me. An experiment. I suspect you might have come to that conclusion without needing me to tell you, but I do not want you to take offense to it. Mine was an experiment in generosity, in benevolence, in wisdom. I found you and I gave you that money to see if I could help you, to see if I could take a tramp, a vagabond, and make him into something worthwhile. I do have to admit that at first I was cynical; with your initial reactions towards the charity I offered you I had difficulty believing you could ever get out of your irresponsible, unhealthy ways. But, thankfully, I persisted, and with this persistence I made you learn.” At this point, the food served and the wine poured, the Man in the Monocle took a sip from his glass, and Buford, on his way out, managed to lose control of the empty tray,

which flung out of his hands and into the other room with a resounding crash. Neither Homeless nor The Man in the Monocle looked to see if he was all right. “Here. Before we go any further try your food and wine. I think you’ll really enjoy it.” The wine was a red Homeless had never seen before, especially for a wine. It was bright -- almost neon. But when Homeless took his sip the flavor was overwhelming. He was certain that if he had tried to have more than a sip would have fallen out of his chair. “Jesus Christ, man,” Homeless exclaimed. “That is some good shit!” “Now try your food.” On the plate was a single small cube, colored puce. Homeless ate it, and this time he did fall out of his chair. It took him a second to gather himself. “Wow!” he exclaimed, still on the ground. “Wow! That is some good shit!” He grabbed onto the arms of the chair and lifted himself back up. “What was that?” “That was dinosaur.” Homeless’s jaw dropped. “You have dinosaur?!” “That’s correct. Like I said earlier, Homeless, through my hard work I achieved all of this, far more than anyone else has achieved. Now let us resume.” “Alright…” Homeless eyed his wine, but didn’t want to have any while the Man in the Monocle talked lest he should fall out of his seat again. “So. Now, here we are, both by many men’s standards successes. We have crushed those who have gotten in our way, we have kept suppressed any potential threats by making use of our advantage in status, and we have had the opportunity to experience the finer things in life. What you have not learned yet, though, Homeless, is that the higher you get, and the more people you crush, the more isolated you become. You still have your fellow executives, but the day you are promoted you will lose them, and when you become a CEO, or a president, and you crush other businesses, you will be respected, yes, but you will not be trusted. You will lose everyone who is worth confiding in, and be left with the moronic, the blind, like Buford.” “Is that why I’m the only one here? I mean, I was told it was a dinner party, you know? Not just a dinner.” The Man in the Monocle nodded. “Yes. That is correct. I could have invited others, but their presences would have been insincere, not worth my time.” He sighed. “Getting your ass kissed can become annoying, as unbelievable as it sounds.” “So, what do you want me to do? Like, be your friend?” “‘Friend’ is such a dirty word. I’d like to have you around for company, for companionship.” At this point, the Man in the Monocle stood up, and slowly made the trip to the other side of the table, Homeless’s side. “You see, I feel like I have sort of raised you. I feel like you are a son to me. I do not feel threatened by you. At all. For you to turn on me would be to do something so heartless that only I could achieve it. So no, not friendship. More of a partnership. Us working together for the same reason, to achieve as much as we possibly can.”

Now the Man in the Monocle was standing over Homeless, his hand on his shoulder, looking down at him warmly. Homeless looked at his empty plate, then he looked at his wine, and then he turned his head around, briefly, to see the doorway. “Well, I guess I could give it a shot.” “Splendid!” The Man in the Monocle started walking back to his place and leaned his head back once again. “Buford! The next dish, please!” Once again, Buford rushed out, replaced the empty plates with a new one, this time an orange cube, and rushed back out, but not before flinging his tray. The Man in the Monocle was seated just as quickly as Buford was out the room. “There are three more courses for the evening. Once we finish them I can show you around and discuss with you some new ways to get to the top of that business you’re working at. I’ve prepared a bed for you as well. Now that you’re here, you’ll have no need for the things you have at your spot under the bridge.” “Wait, you want me to move in here?” “Yes, of course. If we want to work together we should live together. Don’t be so naïve.” Homeless gulped. “No, I don’t know about that, man. I don’t know if I’d want to move in with you.” “Why not?” “Well, I like where I live, you know? It’s my place. It’s got all my favorite books and discs and paintings and everything.” “Once you move here you’ll realize that’s all children’s stuff. Besides, I have every book, record, painting, sculpture, everything ever conceived archived here.” “Well, I still don’t know…” “Eat your course.” The Man in the Monocle’s voice was flat and sharp. Homeless ate it as he did the last one and then he saw a very bright white and then he woke up and found he had fallen back in his chair and had soiled himself. He knew he wanted more, but what had happened frightened him, he had never experienced something so wonderful. The Man in the Monocle did not wait for him to ask. “That,” he said, “was angel.” Homeless could not speak. “Yes, Homeless. Here we have dinosaur and angel. We have angels and dinosaurs bred, and they are kept in pens, and we cook them and prepare them and eat them. The next course will be supernova, followed by the beginning, followed by the future. And can you believe that even these no longer sate my appetite? By the end of this meal you will have tasted something that the entire past, present, and future of mankind combined will be unable to accomplish.” Homeless was feeling better now. He could speak. But he still shook. “That was so fucking good.” “I know. Now you see why you wouldn’t need your books and music?” Homeless sighed. He calmed himself down. “That was good—“

“—Don’t repeat yourself--.” “—but, nah, I can’t, man. It’s too much. I like being home doing this stuff on my own. Even if I did get to have this stuff again, I’d want to earn it on my own.” The Man in the Monocle grew angry, like he used to back when Homeless first met him. “On your own, Homeless?? On your own?! Up until today, what have I not helped you with, what haven’t I told you to do and say that you haven’t done?! Do you think you earned this?! I earned this, Homeless! I made you!” It was true. Homeless had not even thought about it. His head drooped a little. “Wow, man, I—wow. I didn’t even think about that.” He stood up. “Sit down!” Homeless didn’t hear him. “You will stay here and you will work with me! Now sit down!” Why did he want him to stay so badly? Homeless thought. Was he that lonely? “HOMELESS!” Homeless called Buford and Buford came out. “Yes, how can I help you?” “Buford, where’s the exit?” “Oh it’s this way and that way and—“ “Buford, you imbecile! He’s not supposed to leave! Stop him!” Buford’s happy disposition changed for the first time since Homeless had arrived. He started to run, to chase after Homeless, but he kept falling every few feet. Homeless slowly walked to the exit. He could hear Buford’s clumsy steps and crashes behind him, he could hear him shouting “Stop!” and his panting, and whenever it sounded like he was getting too close Homeless jogged a few steps to keep a safe distance between them. He found outside. There was no car, so he started walking back to his spot under the bridge. He turned around one last time and saw Buford in the doorway, a small, motionless spot, unable to go any further, shouting for Homeless to come back, come back right this instant.

1. It really wasn’t looking like much of a night until the baby showed up. We were just sort of watching DVDs of Family Guy and drinking when he busted in with a backwards NASCAR cap and PJs with Batman’s picture on them. And I mean the baby himself would’ve been enough, but he had brought friends, and those friends had brought two cases of PBR, so it was that much cooler. The place became party central: we were playing beer pong, flip cup, kings, and the baby has awesome taste in music, so he put on this playlist with all these hot songs that got everyone going. His friends were really cool and I asked how they met. Turns out the baby used to publish an underground ‘zine on campus and these guys were some of the staff members. I told them I never even knew he

could write. “Oh my God, he’s such a good writer, it’s incredible,” said Evelyn, this one cute staff member with short black hair and thick glasses and pins on her black sweater. Her eyes rolled into the back of her head a little whenever she talked about him. Everyone was having a great time. There was dancing, singing, good conversation, and it was about midnight when I felt pretty drunk and decided I wanted to smoke. I asked my friends if any of them had weed, but everyone was fresh out, so I went over to the baby, who was sitting on Evelyn’s lap and playing with a teething ring. “Hey, baby, you wouldn’t happen to have any smoke, would you?” He looked up and pointed one of the teething rings to me. Evelyn and I laughed. “Nah, man,” I said. “Like weed.” That baby is such a joker, man, because the next thing I know he’s putting his hands down his diaper, apparently like playing with himself, and Evelyn and I are looking at each other and going Oh my God what’s going on, when he pulls out this baggy and gurgles, and Evelyn and I are laughing again. “Oh wow, baby -- awesome.” I had my bowl in my hand. “Wanna pack one?” The baby bounced his hands up and down off his lap, which I assumed meant yes, so I sat next to him and Evelyn and got to work. It was some of the best weed I ever smoked. It completely mellowed me out, and I just sort of melted into the couch for the rest of the night. I didn’t even move when Evelyn and the baby started making out next to me, and I didn’t even mind, because the weed was so good, and the music was incredible, I just sat back and looked up all around the place and kept saying “Man, baby, you are the coolest.”

Princess She was a princess -- whenever we fucked on the couch she'd ask me if I felt that quarter under the mattress that was digging into her right ass cheek. When I hugged her too hard her skin would turn a crimson purple that would not go away for days. In bed, sleeping together, she would keep me awake complaining about the dust mites that were defecating all over her face. I stopped holding her hand after the third time I broke it. If I kissed her too hard she would get a bloody nose and if I pushed her arm she'd ice it for a week. One time I put a rock underneath our mattress and she almost lost a kidney. The next night I put a piece of glass there and she bled to death. The bump had put a hole through her back, all her blood drained and she kept screaming, but I ignored it. Her corpse gave off a scent of flowers and potpourri. I poked her belly and broke through the skin like tissue paper. The small intestine was diamond studded: if you come over you’ll see it on my coffee table next to a book with photographs of the rainforest. I placed her body on the curb with the rest of the recyclables and I never received a call or anything.

Book 1 of 5. All stories by Thomas Simmons. For contact, please email

December 2009

Book One - "Six Stories"  

A collection of short stories self-published in December 2009.